Shannon Faulkner made history in 1995 as the first female cadet at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, following a court battle amid heated public debate. She lasted only about a week, but cracked open the door for other women, including South Carolina State Rep. Nancy Mace, a former Atlanta resident and the first woman to graduate from The Citadel.
In a 1995 interview on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, Faulkner sounded shaken. A woman who identified herself as a military wife shouted angrily at Faulkner for leaving as quickly as she did. “I think I handled it just as good as I could have,” Faulkner responded.
In a more recent interview, Faulkner sounded more resolute. “Not everything has been positive that I’ve gone through,” she told Winfrey in 2012. “It took me a long time to actually find myself again. For so long, my life was focused on The Citadel. I really, truly lost my focus on who I was and where I was going.”
On Saturday, Faulkner returns to the school she fought so hard to enroll in but quickly left, citing stress and fatigue. She’s among the speakers at the “Pat Conroy at The Citadel Symposium,” happening from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the college’s Holliday Alumni Center. The event features presentations from guests including Conroy’s widow, author Cassandra King, and his dear friends Gregg Smith and John Warley.
Faulkner, now a teacher in Greenville, S.C., will give a talk in honor of the Citadel alum who paid for her education elsewhere after she couldn’t endure the strain. It’s titled “Pat Conroy: My Champion, My Mentor, My Brother.”